What is Insulin Resistance? How Does It Affect Women with PCOS?

What is Insulin Resistance? How Does It Affect Women with PCOS?

What is Insulin Resistance?

Before we dive deeper into the details of insulin resistance and PCOS, let's find out a little more about insulin.

In a nutshell, insulin is a hormone present in our body that helps glucose reach the different cells. Thereby, it assists in the production of the energy we require. Insulin gets produced in the cells called islets present in the pancreas. When there are issues related to insulin, it will lead to conditions like type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia, type B insulin resistance, etc.,

Insulin resistance happens when your body fails to respond to insulin, especially the cells present in your muscles, liver, and fat. Due to this, your pancreas will produce more insulin to overcome any shortage. When it happens, there will be an increase in your blood sugar level. It can affect your well-being in general. Therefore, proper diagnosis is essential to understand if you have insulin resistance.

Based on that, you have to start your treatments and medications. Insulin resistance as we know is a root cause of PCOS and most people who have PCOS face this concern.

Common symptoms and signs associated with insulin resistance if you have it along with PCOS include:

  1. For women, the waistline would be more than 35 inches.
  2. It can result in skin tags, velvety skin, and other skin-related concerns.
  3. The HDL cholesterol level will be over 50 mg/dL.
  4. The fasting glucose level will be more than 100 mg/dL.
  5. Fatigue
  6. Cravings for sweet and salty food items
  7. The constant urge for urination

In most cases, insulin resistance happens due to inactivity, obesity, etc. Besides, insulin resistance acts as the PCOS root cause for most women. Around 5 to 10% of women above their reproductive age have PCOS, an endocrine disorder. And, PCOS has a close connection with insulin and gonadal functions.

Other than that, several studies look into the relationship between insulin resistance and PCOS. As per a study conducted in 1980, the researchers found insulin resistance in women with PCOS. Here, they noticed a relationship between insulin and androgen levels as well.

How Does Insulin Resistance Affect Women with PCOS?

PCOS is a condition associated with menstrual dysfunction, hyperandrogenism, insulin resistance, etc. In most cases, women with PCOS would be insulin resistant.

Insulin resistance can also be an indication of PCOS in women. Besides, the effect of insulin resistance on each woman with PCOS will also vary considerably.

It can lead to increased ovarian dysfunction and lead to increased secretion of androgens or male hormones. Additionally, it can make increase cravings result in abdominal fat, and make it hard to lose weight.

Apart from your physical well-being, insulin-resistant PCOS can tamper with your mental health. Because of this, you might slip into depression and other related conditions. Therefore, it is always best to take proper care as soon as you notice symptoms and signs associated with insulin resistance and PCOS.

When you fail to treat insulin resistance associated with PCOS, it increases the chances of having prediabetics, cancer, and worsens your cardiac health. Therefore, you have to ensure that insulin resistance caused due to PCOS gets treated at the right time. Besides, it can pave the way for aggravating other symptoms like androgen-excess disorder.

Ways to Treat Insulin Resistance– a Root Cause of PCOS

It is essential to take the correct measures to treat insulin resistance, a hidden cause of PCOS. Here, you have to bring your condition under medical lenses to understand its intensity. Now, let's have a look at some ways by which you can treat insulin resistance caused by PCOS.

  1. Lifestyle changes: Bringing in lifestyle changes with a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen can be helpful. Here, you have to focus on your sleep routine as well. As per a study, you can reverse insulin resistance with lifestyle changes. Here, the participants went on a one-year-long intervention. Some of them altered only their diet, and some others only focused on exercise. And another group brought in both dietary and exercise intervention into their lifestyle. Here, the last group found a significant decrease in their insulin resistance. During this time, they increased the intake of fish and reduced fat consumption.
  2. Exercises: It will be beneficial to engage in exercises when you have insulin resistance. Here, it is best to engage in moderate to high-intensity workouts for 150 minutes per week. During your workout sessions, you can include weights and also resistance exercises. Apart from that, taking short walks for around ten minutes after having your meals can also be helpful for you.
  3. Balanced Diet: Having a diet plan recommended by a dietician can be highly beneficial for you. Here, you can include dietary supplements as a measure as well. Besides, ensure that you reduce the intake of fats, sugar, processed food items, fast foods, etc. Instead, you have to include vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain food items in your diet. Along with that, you have to focus on calorie reduction if you have issues related to obesity. Besides, as part of maintaining a healthy diet, you have to stay hydrated and drink six to eight-ounce glasses of water regularly.


Close to 70-80% of women with PCOS are estimated to have insulin resistance. It can make it harder for you to lose weight and if left untreated, it can adversely affect all your other PCOS symptoms.

This is why it is important to tackle this common PCOS root cause concern and you can do this by incorporating lifestyle changes into your daily routine.    


  1. Andrea Dunaif. Insulin Resistance and the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Mechanism and Implications for Pathogenesis. Endocrine Reviews. 1997 December 1. https://doi.org/10.1210/edrv.18.6.0318.
  2. P A Torjesen, K I Birkeland, S A Anderssen, I Hjermann, I Holme, P Urdal. Lifestyle changes may reverse development of the insulin resistance syndrome. The Oslo Diet and Exercise Study: a randomized trial. American Diabetics Association.1997 Jan;20(1):26-31. doi: 10.2337/diacare.20.1.26. PMID: 9028689.

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